SF Tech Sessions is back after a brief holiday break! This month’s theme is gadgets connecting people on the move, downloading relevant information and sharing new information with others through cellular and open WiFi networks. I’ve chosen three startups (two launched within the last 6 months) who are well on their way to changing an existing well-proven category with network smarts. This month’s SF Tech Session, Connected mobile gadgets, takes place this Thursday, January 18, from 7-9 p.m. at CNET in San Francisco. Recent Best of CES winners Dash Navogation , Zing Systems, and OQO will present their approach to two-way connectivity on mobile gadgets.

Dash Navigation

Dash Navogation is an on-dash car navigation system connected to fresh data streams from the Internet and other Dash devices. A traditional car navigation system shipping with new cars store map data and points of interest (gas, ATMs, restaurants) on a DVD loaded in your trunk. You can purchase a DVD with new data about once a year to find your way around all the new roads and businesses in your area. Luxury models might include real-time data downloaded from your satellite radio provider such as Sirius or XM for an additional monthly fee.

Dash Express navigation screen

Dash Express is an after-market car navigation device connected to the Internet over cellular data networks and/or WiFi, downloading and uploading real-time data for a faster trip from point A to point B. In a lot of ways Dash Express is a gadget extended with mashed up web service APIs. Dash uses map and location data provided by Tele Atlas updated every 3 months, historical and real-time traffic data provided by Inrix, local point of interest search powered by Yahoo! Local, and event search using Upcoming. They also hope to create a critical mass of Dash devices communicating their own observed data sets back to Dash central and shared anonymously with other cars on the road through their own web service.

My favorite two features of the Dash Express are the ability to send information and directions to your car, and the way the computer pays no attention to posted speed limits when calculating the fastest route to your destination. You can send your friend’s address to your car through the Dash website while you’re sitting at your home computer and the comfort of a full keyboard. The Dash software also knows nobody really drives the speed limit on highway 280, adjusting your trip time for your maniac driving skills down an open stretch of highway.

Robert Acker

Robert Acker, Dash’s Senior VP of Marketing and a former astronautical engineer at Boeing before planning the future of music at RealNetworks and XM Radio, will demo the Dash Express and its unique approach to connected gadgetry this Thursday.

Zing Systems

Zing software powers connected music players taking advantage of Internet connections to listen to and record from Internet radio stations, download new tracks from any open WiFi access point, and share your favorite songs with friends as you walk down the street. Traditionally a portable music player connects to the Internet through your home computer, synchronizing new music, podcasts, and photographs when docked to its base station. New devices such as Microsoft’s Zune player create an ad-hoc network to share songs or photos with the same hardware and software nearby.

SanDisk Sansa Connect

Zing software currently powers the Sirius Stiletto and upcoming SanDisk Sansa Connect music players. You can record tracks directly from satellite radio, or connect to your PlaysForSure music store for new tracks on the go. You can view recommendations and share your favorite tracks with friends as you walk around the city, touching the data cloud whenever you’re near an open access point. Zing has a few deals with paid WiFi networks to help its devices connect without issue or payment while you roam around the city.

My favorite two features on current Zing devices is the ability to switch to the best available music stream and the ability to download new files from your music player. If you own a Stiletto the device software will determine your strongest signal source, playing the satellite stream or connecting to a nearby WiFi access point to stream the same radio channel over the Internet depending on your best form of connectivity. If you subscribe to a subscription music service such as Napster you could view a new recommended track (think Last.fm) and download it and listen almost right away from anywhere with Internet access.

Tim Bucher

Zing founder and CEO Tim Bucher will demo current products and share the company’s vision this Thursday. Tim has a long gadget history, leading the engineering efforts of Apple’s iPod, UltimateTV, and Microsoft’s Xbox before founding Zing.


OQO model 02

OQO compressed features of a notebook computer down to the size of a handheld running Windows Vista in about 18 cubic inches of space. The company just released its Model 02 computer last week, adding three flavors of WiFi and EV-DO (9 antennas total) for Internet access from almost anywhere. OQO is often compared to Microsoft’s Ultra-Mobile PC initiative announced last year even through the company seems focused on core business tasks in as small of a package as possible.

The OQO Model 2 docks to your desktop, powering standard desktop accessories such as an external display, keyboard, mouse, and optical drive. The concept brings up memories of the PowerBook Duo from the early 1990s, when ultra-portables became easily synchronized through a desktop docking station.

OQO marketing lead Bob Rosin will share the company’s views on mobile connected gadgets this Thursday.

Event info

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area you can play with the latest pre-release hardware from local startups Dash Navigation and Zing Systems this Thursday evening at CNET from 7-9 p.m. More information is available on the SF Tech Sessions website.

Please RSVP on the SF Tech Sessions site to help me prepare enough seating, pizza, and beer for everyone.